Political Animal


March 18, 2013 11:39 AM Got 99 Problems But the Right Ain’t One

By Ed Kilgore

So in a blare of hype (including a Press Club speech by Reince Priebus), the Republican National Committee released a big fat report this morning on the findings of its Growth and Opportunity Project, the official 2012 post-mortem and manifesto for “party reform.”

As expected, what’s not in the report is as significant as what’s in it. Amidst a host of talking points about “outreach,” messaging tone, technology, and the presidential nomination process, there’s a flat statement of the need to reconsider ideology on exactly one issue: immigration. Yeah, the report also takes judicial notice of the “generational” trends on LGBT issues and recommends a more “tolerant” attitude on such matters, but skirts actual positioning on marriage equality.

As always, the GOP has 99 problems but conservatism is not among them.

Other than the non-appearance of most of the ideological totems of the Right, the most interesting features of the report (to the extent they have been reported) involve relationships between the national party and non-party campaign organizations, and the nominating process.

On the former issue, the report seems to straddle the main issues. It recommends better coordination with outside campaign groups “as much as is legally possible,” which is actually not much. And it suggests national Republican steer clear of intervention in primary fights, which could be viewed as a warning to Karl Rove’s new Conservative Victory Fund, or to Rove’s supposed intraparty foe, the Club for Growth. Since each will justify its interventions by reference to the other’s, that probably won’t cut much ice.

As for that quadrennial toy of “reformers” in both parties, the presidential nominating process, the report urges a big cutback in the number of candidate debates, which the national party has zero power to actually regulate, and an earlier and more consolidated calendar. Most interestingly, the report recommends a trend towards regional primaries (with, of course, a big pass for the much-entitled “early states”), though Republicans have been even less inclined than Democrats in the past to interfere with state prerogatives in this area. It also encourages the use of primaries rather than caucuses and conventions for purposes of selecting delegates—probably reflecting the late-year domination of the latter by Ron Paul’s forces in 2012—but again, absent firm rules and sanctions, no one will really care.

The one nominating-process “reform” that the RNC probably could pull off is an earlier national convention, but it would have to be much, much earlier to have a constraining effect on state contests that typically conclude by early June.

What will be interesting now is how seriously this document is taken by Republican elected officials and interest groups and the MSM. Some right-wing folk will choose to pretend the RNC is lead-footing an intervention by the “Establishment” that compromises their power; others may recognize that the refusal of the national party to go a lot further after two consecutive presidential losses is in fact a reflection of conservative power.

As for the MSM, most initial reactions are taking the report a lot more seriously than its recommendations justify. Politico’s Maggie Haberman did make its evasions pretty clear, and then noted:

Other suggestions are likely to meet with some chuckles, such as one related to doing better with younger voters: “Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract younger voters.”
It was only a few months ago that the party repeatedly hit Obama for fundraising with celebrities.

Besides, I thought the entertainment industry bore the Mark of the Beast, and was responsible for every social ill from teen pregnancy to gun violence. But maybe the RNC’s idea of a “celebrity” is Donald Trump or Ted Nugent.

All in all, this report is likely to collect a lot of dust, and maybe get a historical footnote if the GOP ever does get serious about dealing with its problems.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • dweb on March 18, 2013 11:51 AM:

    Well they did get one thing right....the number of party presidential candidate debates. One of the major "killers" of the GOP cause in the last Presidential election cycle was clearly the seemingly endless number of debates, coupled with the seemingly endless number of candidates.

    The end result was effectively handing Democrats a huge shopping basket full of delicious clips of potential candidates saying hugely stupid stuff....

    By the time Mitt got the nomination, he was already crippled, and worse yet, unable to pirouette away from the positions of his party as embodied the statements of his own party opponents.

    Couple that with his own gaffes....the 47% speech in particular.....and he was hobbled from the start.

    Trouble is, the party still clearly thinks that the problems it faces are entirely linked to outreach and messaging and not to the policies it stands for. Let us hope they continue to think so and act accordingly

  • boatboy_srq on March 18, 2013 11:54 AM:

    [I]t suggests national Republican steer clear of intervention in primary fights

    I'd LOVE to see how they square that guidance with Citizens United...

  • Peter C on March 18, 2013 12:10 PM:

    “Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract younger voters.”

    If they are thinking that a Rush Limbaugh-led cruise to the Dominican Republican or a Bill O'Reilly loofa-testing extravaganza is going to help them with younger voters, I think they'll be disappointed.

  • c u n d gulag on March 18, 2013 12:10 PM:

    They'll do everything in their power, to remain the white racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and/or homophobic, party of uber-Christianity, that caters to the rich, for as long as possible.

    They'll slap new lipstick, wigs, hats, shoes, trusses and girdles, and dresses, on that same ol' pig.

    Women, "blah," brown, yellow, red, gays, and poor people are beneath them, beneath consideration, beneath anything except contempt, that is.

    And every one of their candidates acted like an angry @$$hole in EVERY debate they had, so if there are only even one or two of them, as long as the candidates need the angry white biased Christian base, every one of them will say enough stupid sh*t in the debate(s) to give the Democrats plenty of ammunition.

    The answer to the question, "Is our Republicans learning?" is still a resounding, "HELL NO!!!"

  • mb on March 18, 2013 12:20 PM:

    RE: debates, number of

    It makes me sad to think that there will be fewer GOP primary debates. Fewer opportunities for ordinary Americans to absorb all that juicy conservatism. And fewer opportunities to see the loving nature of the GOP base displayed in the audience responses. I am convinced that the reactions of the 2012 debate audiences did as much to turn off voters as the chock full o' nuts candidates.

    Plus, I love to watch debates. Can't really get enough of them.

  • Jack Lindahl on March 18, 2013 12:32 PM:

    ... the GOP has 99 problems but conservatism is not among them.

    Correct, because conservatism isn't what they're preaching these days. Calling the modern GOP "conservative" does a terrible disservice to real conservatism. What we're seeing these days is the takeover of the GOP by radical fringe groups. It isn't "conservatism" by a long shot and to keep referring to it as such is actually misleading.

    Call it what it is!

  • Joe Friday on March 18, 2013 12:50 PM:

    Fortunately, the American RightWing still thinks they simply have a messaging problem.

  • Gummo on March 18, 2013 1:04 PM:

    The Republican Party still thinks they have a massage problem.

    Note to Republicans: Putting your hands around the neck of the average American and squeezing as hard as you can is not a massage.

  • T2 on March 18, 2013 1:38 PM:

    As long as the core GOP voter is Southern White Men, there's not going to be any major change. That, of course, will keep the core Southern White Men......and the beat goes on. When the highlight of your CPAC is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, uh, where else can you go.

  • boatboy_srq on March 18, 2013 1:59 PM:

    The Republican Party still thinks they have a massage problem. (emphasis added)

    Oh, if only...

    Isn't that what sank Rekers, and made "Huggies" Vitter stay closer to home? Though Mark "Appalachian Tail" Sanford seems to be doing OK in spite of his massage problem...

  • ARK3000 on March 18, 2013 2:21 PM:

    GOP=Greedy, Old People

    (I'm 62.)